A new study published April 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association characterizes the symptoms, comorbidities, and clinical outcomes of 5,700 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 in the New York area. The authors found that 94 percent of the patients had a chronic health problem, and 88 percent had two or more. The three most prevalent conditions were hypertension (56.6 percent), obesity (41.7 percent), and diabetes (33.8 percent).
The study followed patients confirmed to have COVID-19 between March 1 and April 4, spanning 12 New York City–area hospitals. Patients ranged from babies to centenarians with a median age of 63. Around 40 percent of them were female.
The findings were observational of patients with severe illness and the health conditions correlated with these patients do not necessarily apply to all COVID-19 cases or represent causation.
“We’re simply describing the patients who came in and required hospitalization,” senior author Karina Davidson, a senior vice president at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, tells The New York Times. “We are not comparing them to those who were positive and stayed out of the hospital, or who didn’t get infected, or to patients with any other disease.”
Although the World Health Organization lists fever as a common symptom of COVID-19, the study found that around two-thirds of the patients “did not have a fever and yet were sick enough to need to be hospitalized,” Davidson tells Newsday. “That’s the kind of important finding we thought needs to get out right away.”
A total of 1,151 patients were put on ventilators during their hospitalization. Of those, 831 remained intubated at the end of the study, 282 patients died, and 38 were discharged. None of the patients under 20 years old died, and men died at a higher rate than women. Forty-five patients were re-admitted after being discharged from the hospital after an average of three days at home.
The authors admit there are many limitations to the study including the length of observation, the geographic area, incomplete medical records, and a lack of control group. Still, they say, this is a beginning to accurately characterizing COVID-19 in patients.
“Is there any pattern of symptoms that predicts a worse outcome or predicts people are in fact going to be safe and can be managed at home?” Davidson tells NBC News. “We think that’s the burning question.”